One of the things ERA does without fail is set high standards for all members. Industry self-regulation initiatives and a focus on developments with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and on Capitol Hill keep our members—including our vendor partners—abreast of regulatory and legislative changes.
As I discussed earlier this year, Amazon is upending the entire retail category, and as direct response marketers, we must follow the consumer. Data tells us that not only are consumers changing their expectations for service and convenience, but in certain segments, they are also bypassing traditional call centers and desktop e-commerce transactions. Case in point: the rapidly changing behavior of the U.S. Hispanic consumer.
For the past 25 years, ERA has led the fight to advance direct response marketers' needs on Capitol Hill. In fact, protecting your interests is the primary reason the Association was founded all those years ago. In the beginning, there was a very real threat that government action would ban the industry from operating over the airwaves.
Since 1994, Amazon has pursued one succinct mission: “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where people can find and discover anything they want to buy online.” For Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, that means putting customers at the center of everything they do. “We like to pioneer, we like to explore, we like to go down dark alleys and see what’s on the other side,” Bezos told 60 Minutes correspondent Charlie Rose in a December 2013 interview.
As we wrap up 2014 and look ahead to the new year, digital marketing will have a huge impact on the way direct response marketers conduct business moving forward. Addressable spending on mobile, search, social, display, and email advertising will hit the $50.6 billion mark in 2014—a 14 percent jump from 2013, according to the Direct Marketing Association’s 2014 Statistical Fact Book. The report also says that spending on traditional media—television, magazines, outdoor advertising, radio, and cinema—will grow to $124.6 billion.
With the holiday season approaching, marketers and retailers are bracing themselves for the most critical time of the year. Black Friday and Cyber Monday will set the tone for the buying season, and although DR companies have good reason to be concerned about holiday sales numbers, there are more long-term issues impacting the industry.
I’m excited to step into the role of ERA chairman for the 2014–2015 term, and especially honored to be the first chair from the payment processing industry. One of the reasons I joined the Board of Directors and then ran for chair was that I believe in the importance of payment processing as it applies to the direct response infrastructure. Payment processing is a vital function for marketers and their companies—if you can’t accept credit cards as a form of payment, your business is likely to fail.
With the 2014 ERA D2C Convention upon us, it’s time for ERA to hand the reins to our incoming chairman and present the 2014-2015 Board of Directors. This year, we welcome two new Board members: Brandon Lewis, President of EvTech, and Shannon Moyer, Associate General Counsel at QVC.
Leading the Board is incoming Chairman Chris Reinmuth, Vice President of Midmarket Sales at Meritus Payment Solutions. Chris brings more than 15 years of industry experience to his chairmanship, and has been an instrumental voice in the association over the years—from conducting a strategic push into new, digital markets, to ensuring new members get to know the industry and the association. On behalf of the entire ERA staff, we look forward to working with him during his tenure.
As my tenure as chairman draws to a close, I’d like to reflect on some of the high points from this past year. Working with Julie Coons, the ERA staff, and the Board of Directors, I’m proud to say that we have made headway in transitioning from an administrative board to a strategic one.
We see the bigger picture by acknowledging that the industry is evolving from a single-channel marketing platform into an omnichannel environment. We ask questions like, “How can ERA become more valuable to its members in a rapidly changing marketplace?” and, “As an industry, how do we stay on the forefront of change?”
ERA strives to provide members with the latest tools and resources to help them stay competitive in the marketplace. That means keeping pace with the trends occurring in the industry, and sharing its findings with members. One significant change is that direct response has evolved from a single-channel marketing practice into an omnichannel ecosystem.
May brought ERA members the incredibly important ERA Government Affairs Fly-In, and members resoundingly told us that this year was the “best year ever.” ERA welcomed to Washington, D.C. executives from Allstar, Beachbody, Concepts TV Productions, EvTech Media, Litle & Co., Meritus, TELEBrands, Oak Lawn Marketing Group, Professional Marketing International (PMI), Savvier, and Sensa.
Throughout the two days, members seized the opportunity to network with top-level direct marketers, senior government officials, as well as influential Congressional leaders. The Fly-In also provided an amazing line-up of speakers and sessions that delivered valuable insight into how to protect and grow your bottom line.
On April 12, 2004, ERA and the National Advertising Review Council (NARC) formally unveiled the Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP). This groundbreaking program sought to enhance consumer confidence and provide the direct response industry with a forum to review claims independently of federal regulation.
It was wonderful seeing you all last month at The Great Ideas Summit 2014. Clearly, the warmer weather and picturesque views of South Beach were a welcome relief to the cold and frigid temps felt on the East Coast. There’s nothing like thawing out under the Miami sun while sitting poolside sipping a tropical drink.
The three-day conference was the perfect combination of business and leisure. By day, attendees talked business on the show floor, and by day’s end were relaxing with a cocktail and catching up with friends at our nightly parties. It was also refreshing to see people let their hair down a bit and show off their fun side in the ERA photo booth.
One highlight of the conference was the introduction of Masters Series learning sessions, which provided high-level educational content during all three days of the conference. Members have expressed delight at the exceptional quality and relevance of the content delivered this year, and our record attendance at the sessions reflects this. You can count on ERA to continue to build on this year’s conference successes.
Working with member companies, we continued to convene the CEOs of the largest firms in the industry for twice-annual CEO Summits. At D2C, we also held the first meeting of CEOs for our smaller member companies, naming it the CEO Club. We look forward to continuing to work with the senior executive leadership of the industry to ensure quality peer-to-peer engagement, and focusing on issues that impact the industry’s bottom line.
In addition, the ERA Government Affairs team worked diligently in 2013 to address the industry’s most pressing legislative issues, including:
- The Online Sales Tax. As active members of the True Simplification of Taxation Coalition (TruST), ERA witnessed encouraging developments regarding the Marketplace Fairness Act, the primary legislative vehicle for an online sales tax. Due to a consistent, effective effort on the part of ERA and its TruST partners, the legislation’s momentum has halted in the U.S. House of Representatives. The House leadership has shown limited interest in pursuing the issue, while the Republican chairman of the committee with jurisdiction in the matter has expressed reservations about the bill’s language. As always, ERA will update members as developments arise.
- Industry Guidelines. This year, the association addressed FTC actions with a proposed update to the ERA Marketing Guidelines for Electronic Retailers. Earlier in the year, the FTC announced its intention to broaden the scope of enforcement to cover not only marketers, but also suppliers such as media buyers, credit card processors, and other back-end companies, referring to these suppliers as “choke points” in an effort to shut down bad actors. The ERA Government Affairs Committee responded proactively with a proposed update of industry guidance that simplified advice to the industry while applying the same rules for truthful and substantiated advertising claims across all media.
- Self-Regulation. With the Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program’s (ERSP) 10-year anniversary approaching, ERSP and ERA leaders have been brainstorming ways to expand ERSP services. One area of significant effort is an expansion in the program’s telemarketing review and lead-generation monitoring, with full product implementation expected in early 2014. In addition, ERSP is developing a service to help marketers identify red-flag issues in direct response campaigns that might not be readily apparent to marketers in early-stage development.
As we have for more than 20 years, ERA will continue to work every day to help members grow the industry. Whether it’s expanding business-development opportunities, ensuring that self-regulation efforts stay relevant, or stepping up our investment in legislative and regulatory advocacy, rest assured that ERA is committed to your success now, and well beyond the New Year!
Happy Holidays from all of us at ERA!
The ERA Board of Directors has just completed its second board meeting of the year. After spending nearly a full day together, the Board invested time, energy, and intellect in the beginnings of a renewed strategic plan. During my nearly five-year tenure with ERA, previous Boards worked diligently to develop a strategic plan and monitor its implementation. That plan period ended June 2013 and during its three-year period, delivered amazing financial and programmatic results to ERA. Now it is time to consider the next three years within the current renewed resources and capabilities of ERA, but most importantly, the current business environment for direct response.
Many members of ERA including those on the Board have noted that the industry is at a cross road, where the amazing power of television is now an integral part of a truly multi-channel, multi-platform, multi-screen marketing environment. A new strategic plan must take in to account this evolution and support ERA’s membership’s effective and profitable growth in this new world. The Board affirmed that ERA will continue to be the meeting place for direct marketing leaders to better their companies, themselves, and the industry; that ERA's role as the only advocate for this industry is paramount; that supporting and promoting self-regulation is a core role for ERA; and that ERA must continue to look for new and innovative ways to support the industry. The Board also agreed that ERA has an important role to play in supporting its members in the evolving multi-screen, multi-channel marketing ecosystem.
As this year progresses, the Board will continue to refine the specific objectives for the organization that will bring this strategic plan to action and then once approved, monitor its implementation. To learn more about ERA’s 2013-2014 Board of Directors, I highly encourage you to read the cover story in Electronic Retailer magazine’s November issue.
I look forward to updating you on this progress.
Last month, we closed the book on another successful ERA D2C Convention. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting first-timers to the conference, as well as reconnecting with returning attendees. What struck me the most about the three-day event were the high-level discussions that took place on the show floor, in meeting rooms, and at the education sessions. It was encouraging to see thought leadership in various forums fostering dialogue among industry colleagues about the trends and issues impacting today’s marketplace. More importantly, hearing that our members and other industry leaders wanted to continue the conversation beyond the show floor inspired me.
That’s why special gatherings such as the CEO Summit serve such a vital purpose. They help cultivate ideas and incite interaction in the community. The CEO Summit emerged when a group of Board members identified the need for sharing their industry experiences and providing broader strategic input beyond the Board of Directors. To date, the CEO Summit comprises 60 of the largest member companies in the industry. This group of top executives brings key issues to the forefront such as counterfeiting, regulatory enforcement, and streamlined sales tax initiatives.
For those who have never attended this event (and especially those considering expansion into international markets), I recommend doing so this year. There will be ample opportunities to network with key decision-makers who represent leading DR companies in the global market. In addition, the conference offers an education program that will challenge your thinking with topics such as “The Future of Home Shopping,” “The Home Shopping Triple Convergence Model: TV-Internet-Social Media,” and (with a nod to this year’s location) “Home Shopping in Italy: Coming to Age for Growth.”
The new venue is not the only change for this year’s EHSC; there has also been a change in leadership at ERA Europe. In March, Marcel Avargues stepped down from his position as executive director. Marcel was instrumental in the formation of ERA Europe and has helped lead its growth as a membership, advocacy, and networking entity for more than 12 years. On behalf of the ERA membership and staff, I would like to thank Marcel for his dedicated service.
Dr. Julian Oberndörfer will step into the executive director role, effective July 1. Julian recently served as the 2012-2013 chairman of ERA Europe’s Board of Directors, and joins the association staff from Home Shopping Europe (HSE) GmbH, where he served as vice president of media law, media politics, and network development, and head of country management for Austria and Switzerland. Given his vast experience at HSE and his leadership on the Board, Julian will be a terrific leader of ERA Europe and an asset to the entire ERA family.
“Stepping into this new position is an exciting step forward,” Oberndörfer says. “Having been part of the European board for six years, I now have the chance to form and develop the organization from the inside.”
EHSC, The Great Ideas Summit, and the D2C Convention reflect the international nature of ERA and the industry, and help forge ties across borders. Only through your participation and attendance at these yearly industry events can ERA create more value-added member benefits and provide the vital resources that can help you—our members—enhance your business opportunities worldwide. I look forward to seeing you this month in Rome and in Las Vegas in September!
A few months ago, the ERA leadership gathered for a productive strategic-planning meeting. At the top of the agenda was the identification of specific initiatives for the association’s future growth and evolution.
“Discussions with the Board and at the CEO Summit have revealed a number of important issues that are challenging our industry,” says Harry Hill, ERA chairman and president and CEO of Oak Lawn Marketing. “In the spirit of the ERA forefathers, the Board is engaged in ongoing conversations about these issues, so that the association can strive to be ahead of them over the next several years.”